Mike DeKoning, Technical Solutions Consultant, MFG
Many enhancements are added each year to SOLIDWORKS PDM to increase user productivity. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that are overlooked. I am surprised that the Branch & Merge feature added a few years back has not been embraced by more users. My hope is to show you how this can enable you to try out new ideas without worrying about how you will incorporate them into an existing design.
While SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium provide many great tools to create and modify designs, some things may require a clever workflow to accomplish them. Take for instance exploring new concepts based on existing models. Typically, a user will copy the files with new names or locations, modify them, and then overwrite the original files if the new design is accepted. This can be a tedious and error prone process depending on the complexity of the models being changed. For this reason, new ideas may not be explored as the designer does not want to go too far out on a limb.
Using the ACME grill model, (Figure 1) we will see how utilizing the Branch & Merge function will enable you to freely investigate new ideas. I want to explore the idea of adding a thermometer to the top cover on the grill. I know that this will affect the top cover and grill bowl and lid assembly.
The Branch command is closely modeled after the SOLIDWORKS PDM Copy Tree command. In fact, the only major difference is the requirement to create a distinct name for the Branch. Having a unique name allows you to create multiple branches of the same design if desired (Figure 2).
I choose the grill bowl and lid assembly and use the Branch command to select that assembly as well as the top cover part model including their drawings (Figure 3). I add a prefix for the copied file as well, since my vault is set up to not allow duplicate SOLIDWORKS file names. The files are copied allowing me to add a hole to the copied top cover part and add the thermometer to the copied assembly without affecting the original files. SOLIDWORKS PDM records a connection between the original and copied files.
Once the new design changes have been approved, I can use the Merge command to update the original files with the changes as a new version in PDM (Figure 4). No need to rename the copies and overwrite the originals. The complete history of the files is maintained in PDM for traceability. If the design change is rejected, I can delete my concept models and the branch will no longer be available.
So next time you have a new idea, don't worry about going out on a limb! Use the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional Branch & Merge function to investigate it. I would encourage you to look at all the benefits of using SOLIDWORKS PDM to manage your engineering documents as well as improve your design capabilities.
Until next time,
Mike DeKoning, Technical Solutions Consultant, TPM, Inc.